György Kurtàg – Splinters; Jatekok, Book 7: Un brin de bruyère à Witold, Hommage à Ferenc Berényi 70
Nina Danon (text: Louise Wallwein) – The Island, the Sea, the Volunteer and the Refugee – World premiere
Jay Capperauld (text: Vashti Suwa Gbolagun) – Glitz and Glamour – World premiere
Alan Williams (text: Ian McMillan) – Songs Translated from a Forgotten Language – World premiere
Shruthi Rajasekar (text: Vashti Suwa Gbolagun) – As Oyinbo Come – World premiere
David Nunn (text: Louise Wallwein) – Volunteer – World premiere
Peter Eötvös – Psy
Continuing Psappha’s mini-series of concerts that showcase lesser-spotted instruments, Music for Cimbalom focusses on a stringed instrument of the dulcimer family that’s inspired everyone from Franz Liszt to Elvis Costello. At Hallé St Peter’s, Psappha’s Tim Williams will explore the full range of the cimbalom with a varied programme bookended by a duo of living Hungarian composers, György Kurtàg and Peter Eötvös. These works will be interlaced with five world-premieres by composers living on both sides of the Atlantic, for which Psappha will be joined by award-winning soprano, Claire Wild.
First up is a selection of solo works by Hungary’s György Kurtàg, who places the cimbalom within its eastern European heritage. Kurtàg’s music takes the form of fragments, with individual pieces or movements often lasting mere seconds – like musical Haiku. Small though they are, they possess an emotional and existential rawness that’s well suited to the cimbalom, a rustic 19th Century instrument whose special sound is created by striking metal strings with two wooden hammers.
After the Kurtàg works, we’ll hear a series of world premieres written for cimbalom, ensemble and soprano Claire Wild. The first, entitled The Island, the Sea, the Volunteer and the Refugee, is by Franco-Italian composer and audio-visual artist, Nina Danon. She sets a poem by Manchester’s own Louise Wallwein that responds to the refugee crisis in Greece. Britain’s David Nunn chooses the same poet and subject matter for his work, Volunteer, which will also receive its world premiere here.
Two more new works follow, both of which draw on the words of Nigerian poet Vashti Suwa Gbolagun. Scotland’s Jay Capperauld is up first with his piece Glitz and Glamour, before Indian-American composer Shruthi Rajasekar explores intersections of cultural and musical identity with his As Oyinbo Come. Finally, we’ll hear a work by Salford-based Alan Williams that plays on the lilting Yorkshire dialect of a poem by Barnsley bard Ian McMillan.
Closing the concert will be the music of Peter Eötvös, from the cimbalom’s native Hungary. Still active as a composer at the age of 76, Eötvös’ long, high-profile career has seen him perform with the Stockhausen Ensemble, conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra and act as Musical Director of the Ensemble InterContemporain. Here, Psappha reach back in his catalogue to a 1995 work entitled Psy. It’s a slow-burning piece that showcases Eötvös’ knack for textural subtlety. All about dialogue, Psy’s framework is set out by the eerie-sounding cimbalom, before flute and cello dovetail their responses.
It’s not often that you get the chance to see the cimbalom performed in concert in Manchester, and it’s especially rare for the instrument to be given so much of the spotlight. Tickets are expected to sell quickly, and due to social distancing restrictions, only 30 are available – it’s thus best to act fast on this one. If, alternatively, you’d rather enjoy the concert from home, you can tune into a free livestream via Psappha’s website.